Productivity Academy Live Q&A – Episode 49


Join us live each week at and get your questions answered by submitting them at anytime right here: You can watch the video for the past episode recorded on August 23rd, 2018 above, or you can review the transcript below.

In this episode we talked about:

  • Staying organized and focused even at the end of the work hours. And choosing the next productivity book to read.
  • I am looking for ideas on how to manage notes (I’ve been using Evernote for a couple of years but to me, it seems it doesn’t keep up with other option available).
  • What are techniques for increasing productivity without increasing work hours?
  • What are some techniques/tips for speed-reading?

To find recommended tools and other great resources, check out the Productivity Academy Resource Toolkit:

Hello, I’m Adam with Productivity Academy and today is the weekly Q&A number 49. So today we’re going to be going over some really good questions. We’ve got some questions from new group members about looking at staying focused, how you can do this at the end, say of, a job or at the end of a really long day and you’ve got another project you need to do. As well as the question about books, which I’m excited about. Also, managing notes outside of Evernote. So someone’s looking, I got a new member named Andrea, was looking for ideas on how to manage notes outside of Evernote. Looks like that’s reaching its limitations. And then also some techniques for increasing productivity without increasing your work hours and then more techniques for speed reading, which is kind of interesting and I am not like a bonafide speed reader but I did come across a technique recently that I’ve been employing to get through books much more quickly that I’d really like to share with everyone.

So real quick, if you are watching this live, that’s awesome, go ahead and pop any questions you have in as a comment on Facebook and I will get those as we go through the questions. If you’re watching the replay on YouTube thanks for watching. You can always come and join the group. It’s a free group to join and you just have to answer the three questions to get in the group, make sure that you’re serious and actually into productivity goal setting, all that good stuff and then you can come join us. Of course, you can leave a comment on YouTube and we’ll answer as we have time. All right, so let’s get into it. So one of the first questions again came from a group member and was asking how do you stay organized and focused at the end of work hours? And I think this is a really good question because there comes a time where you’ve got a project, you’ve got a deadline, whatever it is, we certainly try to organize our lives so it’s not stressful, we’re not working insane hours but from time to time it happens to the best of us.

We’ve gotta put in some extra hours or burn the midnight oil. So I think that what I find really helps is, I’m just gonna use the setup of let’s say you’ve just worked like a normal day and you’ve gotta work on something else, I find that taking a break is the first step. Instead of just trying to dive into it or instead of just keep going you wanna take a break and that may mean I have time to eat a meal. Keep it small so you don’t wanna fall asleep. Go for a walk, just relax your brain and stop really intensely focusing. Give yourself a little time to recover, okay? So do that and then sit down a form or write your goals for what are you gonna do during this time. Okay, let’s say you’ve got two hours that night you could work on this project. So what is the one or two or three things you’re gonna accomplish? Very specific, right? So you’re setting kind of the smart action goals and write it down. Okay?

And then remind yourself of the benefit. A lot of times we get task-oriented, remind yourself why you’re doing this. If it’s not front and center in your mind or you’re working on this project to build a business on the side. Are you doing this to meet a deadline that you promised somebody you would hit? So that’s important to you that you keep your word. Just remind yourself of that so that we don’t always stay so focused on the task but that we also remind ourselves what the benefits are and that’s what we’re ultimately striving for. The last thing I would do is set a timer, okay? This mentally helps us if we say, “I’m going to stop at eight o’clock.” Let’s say, we work from six to eight, that you start that timer and that you’re serious with yourself and once that timer’s up you’re done. And within that period you might try doing mini versions of what I just described, taking the Pomodoro Technique, work for 30 or 40 minutes and then take five minutes and walk around, go outside, shoot hoops, whatever it is that you like to do to kind of de-stress your brain.

And then get back into the next session and set the goal, set the timer, do that. I would say give that a shot. That definitely works. I’ve used that before and it’s helpful and that’s like a smaller version of how I try to organize a lot of my work periods. Now there was also a question about choosing the next productivity book to read. Okay, so that’s really good. Obviously, that’s something I do a lot of. I’m reading constantly. I really personally just enjoy reading and then going through though it’s been interesting how I choose what to read. And for this, I still stick with read what you wanna read. Even though I enjoy reading, sometimes you get into a book and it feels like a chore or you’re not enjoying it. I’m of the opinion there’s so much good information, there’s so many great books out there, that don’t push yourself. Maybe hang onto it, come back to it later.

But that reminds of the first thing you used to do is keep a book list. Okay? I use Todoist a lot and if you’re using Focuser, Evernote, whatever you’re using to keep track of your notes and ideas and lists, add that in there so when you’re going through that article or maybe, hopefully when you’re looking at the Productivity Academy and you see a book mentioned that you haven’t read, just add it on there. Maybe a little blurb too about why, what it’s about and as time allows go and grab the next book that grabs your attention and I think that just doing that based off of recommendations from other people, maybe recommendations from books you’re already reading. A lot of authors mention other people’s books, so you can add to it that way. And then you go through and what are you needing right now? Do you need to learn more about project management? Is it general productivity? Is it something else? Just pick and choose what you need and just kind of follow that cycle. Cool.

All right. The next question was managing notes outside of Evernote? So it sounds like Evernote has hit its limitation for someone and what would you do at that point? I think the big question is before I could really dive into this is asking do you have a system or were you just kind of using Evernote and throwing stuff in there, which can help in the sense of if you have at least one area that you’re putting all that stuff into, that’s a good start. But then beyond that, what was the system? Are you doing like a daily review? We’re using notebooks and tags. It helps to know what’s going on with that. I think my first reaction would be to say, again, do you have a system? If not, consider that. How are you using it? Is there a process for bringing material in on a daily basis or reviewing it? Is there a system for moving it around so you’re not inundated with all this information at once?

Just work on those basics and see if maybe Evernote can still perform as needed. If you know for sure at this point, nope, it’s not gonna cut it. Then start trying some other ones before you kind of abandon one tool, though, start trying the other one and see who it works, maybe find out if there’s any hidden limitations you’re not sure about and then you can start making that switch over and developing that new system with the new tool, which I think is really important. Good question. Okay so for the next question, what are techniques for increasing productivity without increasing work hours? Okay, this is a really good question. I think this is the basis of all, in my mind, why do you want to be more productive? We want to increase our productivity, our output of what we’re doing without adding more time. I mean, that’s the definition. We wanna be more productive so our output is larger in the same given span of time so that we can either output more or we can spend less time working.

So I think that the big techniques for this, I always talk about it, is doing a daily review and this really starts to save you time and make you more productive by being aware of what your day is comprised of and what your priorities are because in that daily review you sit down, you gather all those loose ends, you grab your sticky notes, go through Evernote, do a Focuser, whatever apps you’re using and get all of that stuff together, batch all the like items together and then prioritize. And this also includes going through your calendar, all of that. And then once you plan out your day, you’re much more organized, you’re not worrying about the loose ends, you’re not having meetings pop up at the last minute because you forgot that they were happening, okay? All of this stuff starts to be taken care of and it makes your day go much more smoothly. Then you can add onto that by doing things like end of day shut down, right?

So looking ahead to the next day saying, “What’s on my calendar?” And not worrying about or starting to plan for it but just being aware of, “Okay. Well, I’m done today. Tomorrow I realize there’s these three meetings and this work block. That’s basically my day. Do I have any loose notes? Is there anything in my head that I just need to get out that I’ve been thinking about and I can put into my system again?” Whatever tool that is or if it’s your notebook and doing that at the end of the day and then also another good one is, for example, to plan when you’re using these time blocks, you’re like, “I’m gonna work on this project for one hour,” instead of just starting to do stuff, take a minute and either write down, you could be on your computer, could be on a sticky note, and saying, “Okay, what are the actual things I’m gonna do during this time? What are my goals and how long do I have to do it?”

And those are just kind of the tip of the iceberg, really high leverage points that are gonna get you a lot of results and increase your productivity without increasing your work hours. So, good question. And lastly today, what are some techniques and tips for speed reading? So this is really cool. I will definitely add a link to this. This is a really cool article that I read and I put it to use and I can confirm that this worked for me. Get your book, go whatever, I still prefer for some of this stuff to have a physical book so I can do this more quickly but read, assuming you got a hardcover book, read the front flap, read the back flap completely, okay? Then open it up, go through the table of contents and read that completely, okay? So this is giving now the information you need as an overview of the book. That’s the reason you’re doing this. And then what you’re gonna do is if you want to you can spend a minute or two, go find out something about the author, like what kind of biases or opinions do they have, good or bad, just you know where they’re coming from.

And then jump into the book and just, as you start reading, you read the first sentence and if you get the gist of what they’re saying, you skip to the last sentence and read that. And if you get that and basically you understand exactly what they’re saying for the entire paragraph, move on. All right and you just start reading like that. And I’ve found that to be really helpful. It’s a little odd at first because you find yourself going back but if you can stick with it you can just really blow through some chapters quickly and the other point of this is you don’t have to read that way. If you need to slow down, you do that because it’s about comprehension but most of the time, we can infer a lot of what is being said by reading much less.

And then on top of that I personally find that writing some quick notes, I generally do this in Evernote, so if I’m reading a book I’ll have it open on my phone and I’ll just type in some quick notes about what may be an action item or something important about the book and that just really helps anchor that in there while I’m actually reading really fast. Hopefully, that’s helpful to you. I highly suggest giving it a try and even for reading white papers and shorter things like that, really interesting to try when you need to get through something or you really wanna get that information quickly but you don’t wanna maybe spend all the time doing that. All right, I think that is it for questions. If I see any more live questions come in I will answer them but otherwise, I’m gonna wrap it up for today and just say, again, if you’re watching the replay come join us in the group. The link will be below.

You can click on that and come join us in the free Facebook group or if you’re just interested in checking it out on YouTube that’s fine as well. You can click the YouTube subscribe button and stay up to date with the live Q&A’s and app reviews, book reviews, all that good stuff. So all righty. I think that’s it for today. I will see everybody next week.

About the author

Adam Moody

I'm Adam Moody with the Productivity Academy. Get your productivity, time management, automation, and organization questions answered here. Be sure to check out the Productivity Academy YouTube Channel.

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By Adam Moody

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